Central Columbia FFA chapter takes pride in tradition & service


When you think of FFA many things probably come to mind: community service, tradition, and the future of agriculture. That is exactly what the Central Columbia FFA Chapter in Pennsylvania strives to teach their students. The chapter originated in 1942, and since then, only four teachers have taught the program — including the two active teachers.

The high school FFA advisors at Central Columbia are Douglas Brown and Curt Turner (a former student of Brown’s) who have been teaching high school together for 21 years. In addition, their middle school program is operated by Jen Fisher (also a former student of Brown as well as Turner). All together, they have 75 years of teaching under their belt.

The Central Columbia FFA Chapter has many opportunities when it comes to selecting a Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) with their unique facility. Four years ago, the school went under construction for an update. During construction, 5th-12th grades were put into one facility to renovate the high school. The new ag facility included 55,000 square feet of new addition and innovation for the ag program. The facility includes a wood shop, metal shop, food science lab, green house, plant science lab, environmental science lab, animal science lab, ag power lab and more!

Brown said, “The labs allow the students to have hands on experiences that they may not obtain otherwise.” With the resources and labs on site, the students can choose from options including animal production or specialty animal production. For example, students can pick from butterfly production or worm production under specialty animal production options.

One of the specialty animal production projects is being conducted by the chapter president. Mackenzie Fish started her own business to go along with her SAE. As a state star finalist, Fish utilized the resources provided to take a leap and open her own business — Fish’s Worms. The grand opening was Friday March 29. Mackenzie is using this opportunity to work towards her major — Wildlife and Fisheries Science. By having her business directly connect to the career she wants to pursue down the road, she is getting a jump start with her passion and real-world experiences.

The Central Columbia FFA Chapter has even more opportunities for unique animal production. For example, the environmental science lab has species like turtles, shiners and trout. They also have a lab with reptiles, including snakes, geckos, and bearded dragon. The students also have the opportunity for traditional animal production — cattle, goat, and rabbits.

In addition to unique opportunities, the FFA students also help their community in many ways. In March, they participated in Pennsylvania Ag Literacy Week. FFA members read a book to elementary students — “Right This Very Minute”. The book covers the moments throughout the day that our lives are affected by the agriculture industry. The FFA Members explained to the second graders about the growing, harvesting, and consumption of food during a normal day.

The FFA members also take an active role in their community. One great example is the chapter’s vice president, Bryndil Kemler, who has over 600 community service hours in her four years of high school.

Some of the ways that Kemler and other students collected community service hours included: Rural Safety Day, the Bloomsburg Fair which includes Ag Literacy Day, a local therapeutic riding program, and AgrAbility PA who works with farmers that have either mental or physical disabilities.

Douglas said one of his favorite things about the FFA program is the diversity of students. Not all of the students come with farm background, however all of them are interested in the ag industry. Douglas said, “We bring all those students together by trying to build what we think is the best model, using the FFA three-circle model. By utilizing that, we were chosen as the Pennsylvania Outstanding Agriculture Program for the 2018-2019 school year.”

Douglas also attributed their success from the support from the administration, school board, and the parent support. They hang their hat on their long-time experience and success with over 75 years of experience between all three teachers. The teachers support their students to pursue their passion and tell their story whether that be in a two-or four-year degree, those who continue to the work force, or a military program, the Central Columbia FFA Chapter is proud of all their members.

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